Minimizing Toronto's Environmental Impact

On September 27, thousands of Torontonians hit the streets to demand immediate action on climate change. A record 7.6 million people participated in events around the world from September 20-27 in cities such as New York, Berlin, Sydney, Jakarta, Tokyo, and Montreal.

Following the strike, City Council officially declared a climate emergency in Toronto last week. This declaration signifies a formal commitment to protecting Toronto's economy, ecosystems, and residents from the impacts of climate change. Accelerated measures under the TransformTO - Climate Action Strategy will not only reduce emissions, but also improve Toronto's resilience. If you're interested, more information on Toronto's Resilience Strategy can be found online, here.

The Climate Emergency Declaration movement began in 2016. To date, over 1,000 jurisdictions and local governments have declared climate emergencies, including nearly 460 jurisdictions in Canada. In Ontario, this includes cities such as Mississauga, Brampton, Burlington, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, Kingston, and Peterborough. The Federal Government also announced a climate emergency this spring.

At last week's City Council meeting, my motion directing City staff to explore the feasibility of requiring restaurants to provide reusable serviceware for 'eat-in' customers was unanimously approved. This is an important initiative to further reduce the use of disposable plastics in Toronto's restaurant industry. Berkeley, CA adopted a similar initiative earlier this year and will require all businesses to use reusable plates, cups, and cutlery for dine-in meals by July 2020.

I've previously written about the high rate of contamination in the City's Blue Bin program. Unfortunately, recyclable items are often diverted to the landfill due to contamination. Single-use plastics are particularly problematic because they do not decompose easily. As these items break down over time, tiny particles or microplastics pollute our air, food, drinking water, and natural environments.

The Recycling Council of Ontario found that North Americans send 9.5 million tonnes of clothing to landfills every year – 95% of which could be reused or recycled. Currently, textiles cannot be accepted as part of the City's Blue Bin recycling program because they can tangle sorting machines, damage equipment, and cause workplace injuries. This is especially concerning given the amount of resources consumed during production, the chemicals used during the dyeing, printing, and finishing processes, and the time that the textiles take to decompose. To help address this issue, I directed City staff to develop a plan for a City-wide textile waste diversion program this summer, which was approved by City Council this summer.

Over the years, as your City Councillor, I have worked on a number of environmental initiatives to shift towards an Extended Producer Responsibility model for recycling, protect the Great Lakes from combined sewer overflow, expand electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, and electrify the TTC's bus fleet. These are important steps to reduce our environmental impact and I will continue to prioritize measures that reduce emissions and improve Toronto's resilience to the impacts of climate change.